Wednesday, December 16, 2009

So long, and thanks for all the fish


You may have noticed that this blog has been inactive for a few months. After over 4 years I have decided that it has run its course and I will not be posting anymore.


Thanks to all of you that supported the blog over the years by reading it and/or posting comments.


Monday, October 12, 2009

Political Comment of the Day



Let us hope that in this new year of 5770 our own people will come to their senses and perceive the truth.

.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Birchas Kohanim at the Kotel





These two videos were taken yesterday during Birkas Kohanim at the Kotel. They are both of the same event but one is from the Aish Hatorah building and gives an overview of the huge crowd and the other was taken from ground level. It must be an amazing experience to be there in person.
.

Aussies at Simchas Beis Hashoevia

It was nice to see the Aussie flag well represented at Simchas Beis Hashoeiva in Crown Heights on COL and Shturem as well as Chabad.info. I must admit I didn't scrutinise the photos for Australians as it was getting a little boring looking at so many photos of sweaty men :)



I wish you all a Gut Moed.

>

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Avi does it again

Avi Vorchheimer has again published his list of Sukkas (or Sukkot) around the world and especially Australian sukkot. Since Chol Hamoed is a full week this year I imagine that the list will be even more helpful to families who are able to take the time off and those who work away from the main Jewish areas.


Kol Hakavod Avi. Another great community service from someone seeking nothing in return.

Check out the website - www.localsukkah.org
.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We Can All Be Proud

On this erev Yom Kippur 5770 we can all be proud of the way that the Prime Minister of Israel, Benyamin Netanyahu, addressed the United Nations last week. That strong, articulate and impassioned speech has done much to counter the lies and half-truths told by our enemies.


The first part of the speech is below and I have included links to part 2 & 3 on YouTube.



Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here


Maybe even more impressive is Netanyahu's statement to the Israeli press after his speech where he emotionally recalls meeting with the Rebbe on Simchas Torah evening in 1984. He obviously took the Rebbe's words to heart.

From Lubavitch.com
Following his impassioned speech, Netanyahu spoke with members of the Israeli media. In answer to one journalist who asked whether he might not be lending credibility to Ahmadenijad by addressing his denial of the Holocaust, Netanyahu chose to focus on a prescient experience he had with the Lubavitcher Rebbe,Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, 25 years ago.
See the video for his answer to the reporter:



.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Kesivah VeChasimah Tovah



I am posting this mainly for those of us that like chazonos and miss it when davening in Chabad shuls during the Yomim Noroim. This is taken from The Hampton Synagogue's 14th Annual Great Hampton Cantorial Festival. The chazan, Shraga Hershtik, is the son of Cantor Naftali Herstik.

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and prosperous 5770.
.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Simons Sefer Torah - Today

If you go to http://simonssefertorah.blogspot.com/ now you can see a live "hookup" of the completion of the Sefer Torah at South Head Synagogue.


Later today, at 5:00pm, there will be another video link from that page of the actual Sefer Torah procession.
.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

The warmth of the Rebbe



I don't post all the JEM clips that they send me but I liked this one for the warmth the Rebbe expressed to these people.
.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Aussie Musical Talent



This video shows the wonderful talent of Chanoch Rosenfeld on flute and Mendy Rimler whose sings solo. Both are originally from Melbourne and both boys come from musical families. It is great to see their talent being showcased on the web.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Yiddishe Kelev



Rabbi Benny Zippel of Chabad of Utah has help with tekias shofar.
.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mazal Tov!

Mazal Tov to Avrohom Kaminetsky and Shimon Szmerling on learning the entire Maseches Kesubos ba'al peh (by heart). This amazing achievement was celebrated by a Melava Malka at Yeshivah Gedolah last Motzoei Shabbos as reported on COL and CrownHeights.info.

Also, according to the report, a Mesifta bochur, Shmaya Shusterman, was also mentioned at the Melava Malka for learning the entire 53 Chapters of Tanya ba'al peh!

Mazal Tov to the Szmerling, Kaminetsky and Shusterman families on their sons' wonderful achievement.

.

Siyumim for Sifrei Torah

(Click above for larger view)


The Siyum Sefer Torah in memory of Rabbi Groner ob"m will take place this Sunday. See the website here for more details and how to purchase letters etc.







If you will be in Sydney on Sunday 24 Elul (13 September) you can participate in the Siyum Sefer Torah for the Simons Sefer Torah. You can still buy letters, pesukim etc by going here.




Friday, August 14, 2009

Ma'ariv with the Rebbe



A short clip from JEM of the Rebbe davening Ma'ariv on the yartzeit of his mother, Rebbitzen Chana, on 6 Tishrei 5744 (1983).
.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Shocking Video!



This amusing video was made by Australia's newest Jewish blog/website Galus Australis as a plug for their site. Who says blatant self-promotion doesn't work?!
.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Post-Smicha Program -- in Melbourne


I was pointed to the "advertisement" below in Shmais (thanks Berl). It sounds like a good idea especially for the serious bochur who hopes to go into Rabbonus or Shlichus. It would have been nice to have heard about it in Melbourne first but I suppose they expect their intake to come mainly from overseas.


Melbourne Launches Post-smichah Program
What makes a successful Rabbi? The more scholarly will suggest more extensive knowledge and a deeper understanding of the Torah. Pragmatists may propose that an awareness and understanding of his congregants is the most vital ingredient. Hands on, practical experience is certainly also a key.

The problem troubled a group of Melbourne philanthropists. They decided to create a new institution, "The Chabad Post Smichah Program", to address the issue. Founding patron, Mr. M. Gordon, feels that this generic name is very appropriate, “This is the first such program in the world” he explains.

The Orthodox world in general and the Chabad world specifically have rather defined Yeshivah systems. The missing link in this system is that once a student has received his Smichah (Rabbinic ordination), this system is over. 770 in New York (Chabad) or Mir in Jerusalem (non-chassidic) are possibilities for furthering their studies. But for many a student, there is just too much hustle-bustle and insufficient guidance to facilitate an organized and successful year of learning. As Rabbi D. Shmerling, a faculty member for the institution notes, “While teaching in the Los Angeles based Kollel Tiferet Menachem Smichah Program, I recognized a genuine desire on the part of the budding Rabbis for a defined curriculum to further their studies.” Rabbi M. Krasjansky, spiritual leader of Or Chadash and chairman of the Advisory Committee believes that just as important as it is to have a guided program, it is also important to provide for these young and fertile minds to follow the areas of learning in which they find passion.

The program will commence in Cheshvan and will complete its first year in Elul. It will concentrate on area's of halachah which are not covered in regular Smichah programs, but are vital for future life, especially in shlichus or rabbonus. (Other skills necessary for shlichus will also be taught.) Rabbi D. Shmerling, who was chosen to direct the program, will draw on his knowledge to guide the students. He has experience teaching both learned and serious rabbinic students in Kollel Tiferet Menachem and searching young men from secular backgrounds in Mayanot. This will enable him to successfully teach the young rabbi's, while simultaneously advise them about outreach programs for Ohel Devorah.

Strolling down the quiet, leafy Meadow Street, one would never imagine the gem situated at the street's end - Beis Chabad Ohel Devorah. The Shule is the home of a vibrant and diverse community. It is arguably the most centrally located Shule in Melbourne. Founding patron of "The Chabad Post-Smichah Program", Mr. M. Feiglin, was involved in the creation of the centre over two decades ago. He is proud that Ohel Devorah will be the host to this novel program. "The Ohel Devorah community is eager to welcome in the young Rabbis" he adds. It is envisaged that the full-time learning in Ohel Devorah will encourage and attract members, neighbors and guests to join in shiurim which will be commencing in the heimish Beis Chabad Ohel Devorah.

Many of Melbourne's leading Rabbonim and askanim have been instrumental in founding this venture. Some members of Ohel Devorah who have been involved include: HaRav C. T. Groner, its president Mr M. Feiglin, treasurer Mr M. Broner, board members Mr M. Dzienciol, patron Mr M. Fraid, Mr M. Gordon, Mr S. Grajzman, and Mr N. Rosenbaum. The rabbinic advisory board include Rabbi M. Krasnjansky, Rabbi Z. Telsner and Rabbi L. Weinberg (Johannesburg, South Africa).

Endorsed by leading Australian and overseas Rabbis, this new institute is sure to attract bright and dynamic Rabbis of the future. The staff include teachers, selected for their knowledge and skill at educating, as well as catering and maintenance staff of the highest caliber. There is no charge for students. A suitable and nearby premises has been purchased as the dormitory. It will provide comfortable accomodation for the students. There is no doubt that the experience and community involvement which the young Rabbis gain here, will impact greatly on their success in future posts.

For further information or to apply, please e-mail: postsmichahprogram@gmail.com


Monday, August 03, 2009

Position Vacant


Finally, after 3 decades of existence, the Kollel is finally making a positive step towards appointing a permanent Rosh Kollel. The following advertisment was just issued from the Yeshivah Centre:

The Yeshivah Centre has commenced a process to appoint a Rosh Kollel for Kollel Menachem Lubavitch. The kollel was established in 1979 by the Rebbe and spearheaded by Rabbi Y.D. Groner OB’M.

Since its very inception, the kollel has two vital functions. Firstly, to give the opportunity to newly married men to participate in full time learning, and to provide adult education and shiurim to the Chabad and broader Jewish community of Melbourne.

We are seeking to employ a Rosh Kollel to take the kollel forward and to ensure that it grows and develops as the leading institution for Torah scholarship and adult education in Melbourne.

We are currently taking applications for this position. To register an expression of interest or to suggest suitable candidates, locally or internationally, please call Merv Adler on 0412 719912 or email: madler@laserfast.com.au for a copy of the job description.

Rabbi Chaim Tzvi Groner, Menahel Kollel

This is a positive and long overdue step for our Kollel which has been neglected in so many ways over the years. Despite individuals investing a lot of time and effort there seems to have been very little will on the part of the Yeshivah Executive and leadership to invest in this vital institution.

While it is obvious that the Kollel yungerleit will benefit immensly from having a permanent, active Rosh Kollel the community will also benefit - maybe even more. Over 30 years we have seen many extremly talented yungerleit come and go through the Kollel. Because our young men are encouraged to leave Kollel after a year or 2 in order to share their knowledge in the world, there is often no continuity with shiurim etc. Hopefully a Rosh Kollel will also organise things so that shiurim are not abandoned and that there is some sort of handover when our young men finish their time in Kollel. This is just one of the steps that I personally hope will be implemented.


It looks like a positive step is being made to ensure that the Kollel will continue in a stonger and more forward looking way. I am sure that this will be a leap forward for this vital part of our institution.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sincere Regret

(Click on letter above for a larger view)

After the pointer to the article in COL yesterday saying not to attend the video presentation (which was held last night in Melbourne) I was just now advised of a new article on COL. This article publishes apologies from Rabbi Orlofsky and the Chofetz Chayim Foundation.

In the spirit of Tisha B'Av I felt it only right to publicise these apologies and not to comment any more about this.
.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

More on Mosdos

The Vaad Ruchni has just issued a statement regarding the establishment of mosdos. No doubt this was precipitated by the letter in the preceding post originally publicised in Emmanuel's email.


ESTABLISHMENT OF NEW MOISDOS

Given the (generally commendable) desire to open new Moisdos (institutions e.g. a Shule, Minyan or Chabad House etc.) for the purpose of strengthening and spreading Yiddishkeit, we would like to draw the community’s attention to guidelines stated by the Rebbe in this connection. In the Sichoh of Shabbos Mevorchim Adar 5748-1988, which was edited and corrected by the Rebbe himself, two issues are raised for consideration:-

1. The question of unnecessary duplication i.e. an evaluation of whether it might not be preferable to invest efforts etc in the establishment of a Moisad which is at present completely absent rather than merely duplicating something which already exists.
2. The more important (Halachic) question of Hasogas G’vul (encroaching on someone else’s territory) which is, in many cases forbidden by the Torah.

With regard to the second issue, the Rebbe directs all those who wish to establish a Mosad, to first consult a Rov in order to ascertain that the opening of such a Moisad does not constitute any form of Hasogas G’vul. The Rov should be locally based, in order that he be fully conversant with the circumstances and details of the proposal, and should also be a Posek i.e. one who is regularly consulted and gives rulings in other areas of Halacha. It is also desirable that he give his decision in writing, in order to avoid further complications in the event of another party wishing to later establish a similar Moisad.

We are sure that everyone will appreciate that adherence to the above recommendations is in the best interests, not only of existing Moisdos, but also of any new Moisad, whose success is ultimately dependent on its being based on firm foundations, i.e. the will of Hashem as expressed in His Torah.

With blessings that we merit the immediate and complete Geulah through Moshiach Tzidkeinu.

There is a lot one say about this statement. On the surface it is quite reasonable and just common sense but when one takes into account personalities and egos it is not so clear cut.

Just the issue of Hasogas G’vul, for one, is not simple. I remember a communal shiur by Rabbi Chaim Gutnick where he said that one may open up, for example, a jewelry store next to another jewelry store with the argument that each is aimed at a different clientele and has different stock etc. I am sure that the learned ones will argue with this but to a simple person like me it makes perfect sense. If I have a business, shul or whatever and cannot offer a product that appeals to my customers then that is my problem. If someone with a better or more attractive product opens nearby I need to pick up my game and not cry about it.

Another issue is that many rabbis of established shuls and Chabad Houses are hoping that their children will move into their area and are against other Chabad Houses opening nearby (nepotism anyone?). It is understandable that they would want this but it is not necessarily morally correct.

There are other issues but the bottom line is - are we wanting to open mosdos to benefit the Jewish community and Jews in general or are our Chabad Houses just functioning as businesses. I believe that we, and more importantly our communual leaders, have to step back and think about what Chabad is and what the Rebbe wanted in terms of hafotza. Maybe then we will be more open to doing what will benefit the "people" rather than the "leaders".
.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Head Shluchim?

Click on letter for a more readable size

Emmanuel has sent out this letter from Rabbi Y Krinsky, Chairman of Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch, officially appointing Rabbi Yossel Gutnick and Reb Arel Serebryanski as "Head Shluchim" of their various Chabad Houses.

What does this mean?

Both these gentlemen have either established or supported Chabad Houses over the past few years. Reb Yossel has and is being more active with this and, I assume, financially supporting his children in their establishment of various Chabad Houses in Melbourne and beyond. Reb Arel most notably lent his backing (sometimes with the financial support coming from his friends) to various shluchim who did not have the backing of the established Chabad House Rabbis for whatever reason. I don't see that this official recognition from Merkos actually changes anything. Both Reb Arel and Reb Yossel are secure enough to have never needed official backing for any of their ventures. In any case I wish them Mazal Tov on this "appointment" and hatzlocho in continuing their good work.


As Emmanuel points out in his email there is still no overall "Head Shaliach" in Melbourne. Rabbi Groner was always the official Head Shaliach with Rabbi Shimshon Yurkowicz as the de-facto head of the Shluchim "board of Rabbis". I have no idea what that group is called but, from my observations, it is an exclusive, self-appointed board. In essence I think it is a good idea that there is an place where Shluchim can brainstorm issues and work together. My issue is that this group of Rabbis, many of who established their own Chabad Houses with little consultation with anyone else, has decided that only they have to the right to approve of who can be called a Shaliach. I know of good, talented and dedicated people who have been given an extremely difficult time by this group when they wanted to establish a new Chabad House. Fortunately there are people like Reb Arel around who will back new shluchim in their ventures.

So the bottom line appears that everyone will continue and do their own thing. The more established Chabad Rabbis will still oppose the opening of new Chabad Houses (except by family members) and those rejected will have recourse to Reb Arel and Reb Yossel.

The main thing is that the Rebbe's work be continued in a positive way without egos getting in the way. Now that the "Head Shaliach" role is decentralised this should lead to positive outcomes.
.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Cure for the Internet

The story I heard on the radio this morning seems to be the cure for all of you out there who keep reading these inane blogs! The Linyi Fourth People's Hospital in China has been forced to stop using electric shock therapy to treat young people addicted to internet use according to the ABC news report here. My own internet addiction led me to other stories such as the one on Reuters and The Age and many other news outlets who essentially report the same thing.

Maybe this is something the Va'ad Ruchni can thing about.

But seriously, the Univerity of Tasmania is taking the issue of people spending a lot of time on the internet seriously and has commenced studies into "internet addiction" as reported here. Maybe it is about time we thought of how we can temper our usage. A good sefer or book is always an option.
.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Not Funny



"On a more serious front, I sincerely hope that when the president goes in for his annual check-up, the doctors at Bethesda will do a brain scan. Surely something must be terribly wrong with a man who seems to be far more concerned with a Jew building a house in Israel than with Muslims building a nuclear bomb in Iran."
--columnist Burt Prelutsky

.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Merkos Rabbi at La Trobe


Yankel Rapp with La Trobe Vice Chancellor Prof Paul Johnson

The AJN reported last week about anti Israel (aka anti Semitic) protests by certain student groups at La Trobe University. These leftists hassle Jewish students and have even enterered lecture theaters to spew their hatred. The Jewish students are understandably upset by this and no doubt do not feel safe on campus.

This week the paper that everyone loves to hate, the Australian Jewish News, has a report that Yankel Rapp, as a campus rabbi, has met with the chancellor of La Trobe. From the report it sounds like the Uni administration is taking this issue seriously. Time will tell whether this is just lip service or changes actually occur. In any case it is good to see that some action is being taken.
.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Watch this Blog


I was just made aware of a new blog, AJN Watch, which has been setup to counter the perceived anti-orthodox bias of the Australian Jewish News.

As an observant Jew I must agree that the AJN certainly seems to do its best to highlight any negative issues that the community has and appears to emphasise stories when a frum individual is accused of doing something wrong. Case in point was the disgusting front page in last week's paper of a Rabbi who has been accused of wrongdoing. Despite a one's personal feelings this rabbi has not been tried and found guilty yet. Maybe the Jewish News and others know something we don't but I always thought that one needs to be found guilty by a judge before he is sentenced.

I also find it frustrating that the AJN journalists know very little about the frum community and often have incorrect reports, quotes etc in articles that pertain to us. I put this down to the fact that there do not appear to be any frum journalists (except for Yossi Aron who seems to be confined to one particular area of the paper) and also that the paper does not seem to care about our segment of the community. Until the Jewish News editors and management make a concerted effort to understand the frum section of the community I cannot see this changing.

The solution the writers of the blog propose is to purchase the Hamodia. While I do like this paper it has nothing to do with our local community. I certainly enjoy reading news about frum communities overseas but I would also like to know what is going on in our community. I know that there is a segment of frum Melbourne who care nothing for the less frum but most of us want to know what is happening in the Jewish community. Until there is someone who wants to invest in another newspaper for the Jewish community of Melbourne (or Australia) I cannot see the Hamodia taking the place of the AJN.

If I can offer a defence of the Jewish News (at my peril)...I am sure that we understand that the orthodox community is only a small section of the Melbourne Jewish community. The fact that the overwhelming majority of the journalists are not frum, the owners affiliate strongly with the Liberal/Progressive/Reform (whatever it is being called today) movement and the prevailing culture is extremely secular leads to articles in that paper which have very little Jewish content apart from the fact that they are about Jews or written by Jews. I cannot see this changing.

In any case I am looking forward to reading future posts on this new blog and honestly hope that the owner(s) can encourage a positive change to the Jewish News which will satisfy the majority of the Orthodox community.
.

Friday, June 26, 2009

First Yartzeit of Rabbi Groner

How many people have sat at that table?


Today, 4 Tammuz, marks the first yartzeit of our Rabbi Yitzchok Dovid Groner. There are a couple of tributes in this week's Jewish News and a number of articles, tributes and photos on the Yeshivah Centre website here.

Rabbi Groner, with his huge personality, was almost the face of Chabad in Australia and especially in Melbourne. There are few, if any, people in our community who haven't been touched by him in some way. In fact he was known and respected throughout the general Jewish community because he was so active in so many areas over the years. We in Chabad are noticably missing his leadership. Di neshoma zol hoben an aliya.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Personal Reflections



Chabad.org has many articles and information about the Rebbe for Gimmel Tammuz here. The area that I like the most is the one that contains personal stories about the Rebbe from people of all walks of life. It can be found here.
.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gimmel Tammuz - 15 Years

17 Adar 5749 (1989)
Click on photo for larger view


Rabbi Shimon Posner of Chabad of Rancho Mirage (somewhere in America!) has written a thoughtful piece about the Rebbe. After 15 years there is not much to say. I suppose that we should at least reflect on how we can live our lives in the way that the Rebbe wanted to improve ourself and the world around us.


Walking down 34th Street you see the camera-clad map-wielding tourists heading towards the entranceway of the Empire State Building. They stop and look up, they lean back, lean all the way back until just before they lose balance, and they start clicking pictures -- of a wide, wide wall.

The more self-conscious and sophisticated ones blush when the passing New Yorkers suppress a sly grin. It is only once the tourist gets to Seventh Avenue that they gain any perspective of this magnificent, elegant landmark soaring above an already impressive skyline -- and how it is head and shoulders above Spokane.

Was the Rebbe a rabbi? Well yes, but no. Forget it, I'm not going to be able to explain what the Rebbe was, what the Rebbe is. It is now, as I write these lines, fifteen years already since his passing, and I don't have any perspective. I see legacy; newlyweds who never even spoke with the Rebbe that are chomping at the bit to do his work even before they've unpacked their wedding gifts.

So if I can't give any perspective on the Rebbe why do I write of him? I see that his idea – which raised more eyebrows than interest fifty years ago – is now considered normative Jewish experience; Jewish children will be more inspired than their parents’ generation. When I came to Rancho Mirage, a kind soul suggested that we’ll be getting lots of calls for people who want to say kaddish in a traditional synagogue, like the one their parents frequented. Once in a long while we get such a call. Regularly, just ten minutes ago in fact, we get a call for help with getting kosher food: their grandchildren are visiting.

So if I can’t give any perspective on the Rebbe why do I write of him? For the exercise: the mere exercise will allow a place for the perspective to develop – and will show the void of having no perspective. Lots of people who take their given expertise very seriously predicted what would happen to Chabad once the Rebbe would pass on, especially the youth. None that I know of spoke of a legacy which becomes more dynamic, not less. I would not have thought it.

Many of those aforementioned couples are not fully aware of it, but they are not the first. It was their grandparents’ generation that was arrested and served in Siberia’s gulags. In the blank next to the word “crime:” was written the word that sentenced them: Schneersonist. Most of these Schneersonists had never seen the Rebbe then; those who did not survive, never met the Rebbe now. The Bolsheviks meant Schneersonist pejoratively.

President Dubya on a trip to Russia, a couple years back, spent forty minutes longer than planned in a synagogue where Shneersonists were arrested, where one of those newlyweds had come back to -- can I say it without sounding hackneyed? -- breathe Jewish life into the embers of the Jewish spirit.

No, no this is not perspective, this is just a wide, wide wall. Perspective you want? Keep walking.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sensible Words



I was just sent this article by Alexander Downer (Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister from 1996 to 2007) written about a month ago. He always came across to me as having more common sense than many other pollies but this article echos my thoughts exactly about the topic of taking responsibility for ourselves. I believe that we can all apply this to our own lives and in our dealings with others.


The original is from the Adelaide Advertiser.



I don't know about you, but it's always nice to get emails. Once upon a time you'd look with pleasure at a handful of letters which dropped through the letter box. Now all you get are those threatening looking envelopes with windows. Or if you're Tom Koutsantonis, those nasty missives which tell you about passing unknowingly through a speed camera.

But this is a generalisation. At the height of the Schapelle Corby affair I received 5000 emails in one day from fellow Australians pleading with me to save "our Schapelle" from the horrors of the Indonesian legal system. Or, to be a bit more honest, the few I looked at said that.

I'm sure my successor as foreign minister, Stephen Smith, had his in box bursting last week as people demanded he save the beer mat mum, Annice Smoel, from the ravages of the Thai police. I felt for him especially when the media started demanding he "do something" to save her.

After about 10 minutes as foreign minister I was a little surprised to learn I was "responsible" for miscreant Australians who got into trouble in foreign countries.

No, no, no, don't get it wrong - drug traffickers, drunks, kleptomaniacs and fraudsters weren't responsible for their own stupidity - I was.

It's about time that great nanny in Canberra, the Federal Government, turned around and told people they are responsible for their own decisions.

I was in Lebanon the other day and went down to the southern cities of Sidon and Tyre. They're fascinating places - old Crusader castles, bustling souks, colourful little food stalls with generous owners offering you a taste of their wares.

But I couldn't help remembering the awful events in those same places three years ago when Israel went to war with Hezbollah.

There were said to be 20,000 Australians in Lebanon at that time and a hefty percentage of them were demanding the Australian Government save them and
fast.

Lebanese support groups hit the airwaves screaming that the Government was too slow getting those Australians who wanted to be evacuated to safety. But hang on, Australia's about 15,000km from Lebanon and we don't dock ships in the eastern Mediterranean ready to ferry Australians to safety.

And there was something else. We'd issued a travel advisory months earlier warning Australians of the dangers of southern Lebanon and the risks of going there.

It didn't matter - apparently we had to get them out.

We were lucky. The Australian ambassador, a petite, charming professional called Lyndall Sachs, worked day and night chartering ferries and providing comfort to the evacuees, who hadn't cared about the travel advisories, and whisked them to safety.

It was one of the great achievements of an Australian diplomat. Almost single handedly, she managed to get around 5000 Australians to Cyprus and Turkey.

We then chartered planes to take them back to Australia. I hope they built shrines to her. Some did, at least metaphorically.

But some just whinged. They felt seasick on the ferry and that was our fault. Could they get frequent flyer points for the free flight back to Australia? And all this cost around $30 million dollars - your dollars.

I'll tell you this - I didn't get 5000 emails of thanks but I got plenty of abuse because we weren't fast enough, the ferries didn't go from their port of choice and we were slow because we were racist, and so on. I mean, we'd warned them and told them not to go to the south of Lebanon. They went all the same. And when the proverbial hit the fan it was, you guessed it, "our fault".

Then there was Hurricane Katrina, which flooded much of New Orleans. A mother of an Australian who arrived in New Orleans the day the hurricane hit came to see me in Stirling and demanded I get her son out. Americans couldn't get out but I had to get her son out. I asked if he'd heard the warnings from the U.S. Government that week to avoid New Orleans.

She started shouting. He doesn't follow the news, he doesn't watch TV or read the newspapers. I see, I said. It was my fault he was in New Orleans, was it? What were we to do? Fly helicopters from Australia to America and pick up Australians and leave the Americans behind?

I didn't have the guts to say this as foreign minister but don't you think you should take responsibility for yourself when you go overseas?

If you're too dumb or idle to read the travel advisories and too mean to take out travel insurance when you go overseas then you ought to take responsibility for your own behaviour.

Sure, if there's a catastrophe like the Bali bombings or you're trapped in a corruption scam the government should try to help. But not if you're too lazy and silly to help yourself.

Remember two things when you travel. First, there are no special laws for Australians overseas. Foreigners make the laws over there, not us. And secondly,
foreigners do things differently and they're entitled to.

If you go to a Muslim country and get wildly drunk and women start dressing down (if you know what I mean) it can be bloody offensive to the locals. You'll soon be in trouble.

And learn to take responsibility for your own behaviour. Stealing is wrong, even stealing beer mats. I know, I know, the beer mat mum had a few drinks but, no, she wasn't drunk and she was charmingly polite to the local police.

But she was in a foreign country with a different culture and all of us ought to respect that.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Chabad Youth & A'Beckett Street


I just received an email from Angela Carabott on behalf of the neighbours surrounding the Yeshivah Centre and particularly those in and near A'Beckett Street. The email was aimed at the Yeshivah Centre and Yeshivah Beth Rivkah administration and was also sent to AussieEcho and Emmanuel Althaus probably in the hope that we would publicise their issues and complaints. I am happy to reproduce the email here with a few comments of my own (I am sure you are not surprised).

The email is mainly aimed at the proposed Chabad Youth Centre on A'Beckett Street which first came to light a year ago (see here). The author also complains about the noise and other annoying behaviour emanating from the Yeshivah.

From what I hear Anash, members of Yeshivah Shul and parents of the school have two main issues with the proposed Youth Centre. These are (1) that precious and scarce land is being taken away from the Yeshivah grounds and (2) given to Chabad Youth. It seems to me that every square metre of land is needed and will not be easily reclaimed once the Chabad Youth centre is built. It also appears obvious that land should not be given away - just as other Chabad Houses and organisations must raise money for their particular projects so should Chabad Youth. This is especially so considering that it is claimed that Chabad Youth is a separate entity and will be self funding.

Serious accusations are made in the email below that part of Federal Government grants have been "syphoned off" and given to Chabad Youth. It is difficult for me to believe this particular accusation and I feel that, if the accusation is true, there will be a good explanation and probably a misunderstanding of the intention and purpose of the grant.

The last half of the email gets a little hysterical in tone but some of the accusations of noise and bad behaviour are probably true. I do know that, especially during Sukkos, there was a lot of noise and singing in the street well after midnight but also know that this did not come from the Yeshivah but from another group of exuberant young men in the area.

In any case the neighbours appear to have legitimate concerns and it will be of interest to see if these are taken seriously by both the Yeshivah and Chabad Youth leadership.

Subject: Youth centre in A'Beckett Street - Action taken by neighbours

As you are aware, your neighbours do not believe it is appropriate to build a 4 storey youth centre in A'Beckett Street because of the inevitable excessive noise, traffic and breach of privacy that such a building will bring to A'Beckett Street.

The neighbours are fed up to the back teeth with the noise late at night that regularly emanates from the Yeshivah College campus during the week and the illegal and dangerous behaviour that is being increasingly conducted by the parents, students and visitors to the Yeshivah College campus.

Since the beginning of 2009 the neighbours have all agreed to consistently report to the police, the State and Federal Government and/or the Glen Eira City Council (whichever is appropriate) ANY breaches of any planning permit conditions of any Yeshivah College building, or ANY breaches of State and Federal laws including parking regulations and use of fireworks (which are illegal in Australia).

This resolve should be evident to you as it has been through the actions taken by the neighbours that the planning permit to use Werdiger Hall for non-school events was only given once many conditions limiting the hours of use, acoustic fencing, limiting number of events and people and car parking requirements were added. In addition, it was the action of the neighbours which stopped the illegal use of the ramp to the A'Beckett Street staff car park and now requires the ramp to be removed costing Yeshivah College thousands of dollars in wasted construction costs and fines from the Glen Eira City Council.

Having stated that, you should be aware that following statements made by Craig Brown (of McIldowie Partners Architects) to several people, that $860,000 of the Government School Funding Stimulus given to Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah College by the Federal Government has been syphoned off to be used by Chabad Youth, a complaint has been lodged with the Minister for Education (Hon. Julia Gillard, Deputy Prime Minister), the Department of Education and several state-wide newspapers.

The neighbours do not believe that the Chabad Youth building is in keeping with the Federal Government's expectation that the funding is to be used by Yeshivah and Beth Rivkah College for school buildings especially as Moshe Kahn made it very clear at meetings with the neighbours in December 2008 and February 2009 that Yeshivah College will have nothing to do with the activities/uses of the youth centre and that Yeshivah College will have to obtain his permission to use the building at all.

It is apparent that the proposed Chabad Youth building will be used the majority of the time for the DaMinyan of over 200 congregants as stated on www.DaMinyan.com "Since its inception, it has experienced tremendous growth, and now has over 200 congregants, making it one of the fastest growing Shules in Australia." and "To further this goal, DaMinyan is relocating to a new, state-of-the-art premise, which will ensure adequate space for our ever-increasing members, and offer modern facilities for our functions." This is not what was stated in the application for the youth centre's planning permit to the Glen Eira City Council and the civil compliance unit has been advised of the possible deception.

In the past 6 months there have been a number of disturbances at Yeshivah College late at night (after 12 midnight) which the police, the fire brigade and Councillor Jamie Hyams have attended. After each disturbance the Glen Eira City Council civic compliance unit has contacted Yeshivah College and been told that either it was another Jewish organisation who created the disturbance or that youths had entered the ground without permission - there are a number of eye witnesses to the disturbances which have categorically stated that these statements made by Yeshivah College are untrue and show just how Yeshivah College wants to treat their neighbours. Not only are the neighbours unable to sleep at night as a result of the singing and bonfires but on one occasion fireworks being set off from within the Yeshivah College campus set alight the grass of 82 Hotham Street and another firework hit the Groners' roof at 80 Hotham Street.

The fact that no one from Yeshivah College is responsible or willing to do anything about this dangerous behaviour makes the neighbours question whether staff, parents and students of Yeshivah College believe in the principle of treating their neighbours the way they would want to be treated (unless loud singing until 2am outside their home and fireworks nearly burning down their house is how they want to be treated). It is hard to believe that it is a Jewish religious organisation which is acting in this manner.

As a result of the unwillingness of Yeshivah College to accept responsibility for the actions of people who are invited to the campus for events or take control of people's actions at events (for example, the Lag B'Omer party held in the Chabad Youth classrooms on 11 May 2009 which almost ended up in the Werdiger Hall being burnt down had the neighbours not rang the fire brigade at 1am to put out an unsafe bonfire which had been lit by drunken youths from the party), the neighbours will shortly install 24 hour digital video surveillance of A'Beckett Street and Yeshivah College to be used as evidence for the Glen Eira City Council civic compliance unit, VCAT and the police.

Once the Chabad Youth building is operational with over 200 congregants (and growing) of Yeshivah Alumni and other non-Yeshivah people then the video surveillance will be used to ensure that all the 22 conditions within the planning permit are adhered to or else evidence will be provided to the Glen Eira City Council to fine Chabad Youth with the aim of having the planning permit changed by VCAT to close down the use of the building after school hours.

Yours sincerely,
Your neighbours

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Good Yom Tov



I just came upon this film of the Rebbe from Motzoei Shavuos in 5720 (1960). It seems it was released for the Laufer-Nemanov wedding almost a year ago.

While today we are used to seeing every minute of famous people's lives recorded and publicised this film would have been extremely unusual at that time. It was obviously taken by a handheld camera and the quality is not particularly good but it clearly shows a youthful Rebbe distributing Kos Shel Brocha. The latter 2 minutes of the film shows the Rebbe davening in the upstairs Zal in 770 and also distributing Lekach from his room.


Wishing you all a Good Yom Tov and Kabbolas Hatorah Besimcha U’vpnimiyus.
.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Pidyon Petter Chamor



Better late than never...

I was just informed of this video filmed by Chaim Mehlman of High Key Productions. For those who were not there it is a nice summary of the event.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Lag B'Omer!



This is one of the funniest ones I have seen for a while.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Israel


Today, 5 Iyar, is the date when 61 years ago when Israel was declared a state. It is celebrated by much of the Jewish world in one way or another. The chareidi world (including Lubavitch) is a notable exception. It seems that despite the fact that Israel is an integral part of our identity these days we still have a difficult time acknowledging this.

It is true that 100 years ago the idea of a Jewish State in Palestine (as the land was called then) appeared to be against the idea that we would return to our land when Moshiach comes. It looked like the mostly irreligious Jews - who advocated the setting up of this new state - had rejected this fundamental belief and it was obvious that most Torah Jews would find this abhorrent.

Today Israel has proved itself to be a Jewish land which offers freedom and pride to Jews everywhere. The Charedi press and websites are filled with all sorts of news about our land. The establishment of a Jewish Homeland is a fait accompli and, while we are still waiting for Moshiach, it is the only country where all Jews can feel proud and free. It is the place where young men and women in our community want to visit and study. It is an amazing place for frum Jews and where the spirit of Yiddishkeit is almost palatable when travelling the country.

So despite the Lubavitch (and Chareidi) world's ambivalence about this day I say that it is about time that we openly recognised the place that Israel occupies in our lives. Our Jewish self-worth has been enhanced by this little country and we are prouder Jews because of it.


A great website about Israel and with some wonderful aerial photos can be seen here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Heiliger Hollywooder Rebbe



He reminds me of a famous Australian rabbi - Rabbi Mordi Katz. He is not as funny as Katz but still amusing.
.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Exclusive Photo of Birkas HaChamah


This amazing photo of Birkas HaChamah in the Antarctic definitely trumps all the Chabad websites with their never ending coverage of this event.

Thanks to Jake for this. He is in the photo - the 57th person from the left in the 235th row. .

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Good on ya Stephen Smith!

Some of the attendees at the 2001 conference showing their true colours

Australia has just announced that it will be boycotting the UN's Durban Review Conference on human rights which is starting this week. If you have been following this story you will know that Jewish groups in Australia have been trying to get the Rudd government to boycott the conference for a while. Fortunately they have been successful and Australia has joined Israel, the US, Canada, Italy and Holland in refusing to attend this conference.

What the fuss is about is that the original conference in 2001 in Durban was, despite ostensibly being against racism, used as a vehicle to bash Israel. Jewish people everywhere expect that this conference will just be more of the same. By boycotting the conference we hope that other countries will look more closely at the skewed agenda of the organisers.

The article in Wikipedia states the issue in 2001:

Entitled "World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance," the conference was discussing unfair treatment of one group against another. Disproportionate amount of time was focused specifically on Israeli treatment of Palestinians, while flagrant violations of human rights and genocide in other parts of the world were ignored.

That 2001 meeting was dominated by clashes over the Middle East and the legacy of slavery, and particularly marred by attacks on Israel and anti-Israel demonstrations at a parallel conference of non-governmental organizations. The U.S. and Israel walked out midway through the 2001 conference over a draft resolution that singled out Israel for criticism and likened Zionism — the movement to establish and maintain a Jewish state — to racism. The European Union also refused to accept demands by Arab states to criticize Israel for "racist practices."

There have been a number of news articles about the decision today in The Age, The Australian, Reuters and the Jerusalem Post to name just a few press outlets. Hopefully other countries will wake up and refuse to be bullied by the Arab world into ignoring the many human rights violations in those and other Moslem countries.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Monday, April 06, 2009

Pesach, Halochos and Chumros


COLLive has published this article by Agudas Avreichei Lubavitch of Kolel Menachem which is a translation of a talk by Rabbi Yosef Heller of the Crown Heights Beis Din.

While none of us have much time to spare before Pesach this article is certainly worth a few minutes of one's time. Many Rabbonim and mashpi'im have spoken and written about this topic. I think Rabbi Heller approaches it in a way that many Lubavitchers can relate to. So many of us get carried away with preparations for Pesach and with chumros on Pesach itself. What Rav Heller emphasises is that it is all very well for us to be stringent ourselves but that is not necessarily the correct behaviour when it comes to our family. Shalom Bais should always come before our personal chumros.

Some of what is said which strikes a chord with me:

Many people are more stringent during Pesach than throughout the year; nonetheless, certain priorities must take precedence. Oft times, due to ignorance or unawareness, one is scrupulous in keeping a hiddur yet careless with halacha mandated in shulchan aruch.

There is a saying from the Gerrer rebbe, the Beis Yisroel, concerning this issue. It is written in Shulchan Aruch that many have the custom not to eat nuts during Aseres Yimei Teshuvah, for the word אגוז (nut) has the same gematria as חטא (sin). The Beis Yisroel brings to our attention that the word חטא, also has the same gematria as חטא…
....
R' Pinchas of Koritz had a student who was extremely scrupulous in keeping out all chometz. During pesach, he only ate at home, not even attending his Rebbe's yom tov meal. Once, during the se'uda of Shvi'i shel Pesach, upon inquiring about his student's whereabouts, R' Pinchas was told that his absence was due to his meticulousness regarding chometz. "In the barrel of water he had prepared for Pesach, lays some chometz," the Rebbe told his students. When the student was thus alerted, he fretfully rushed to R' Pinchas asking how such a calamity had befallen him, especially with all his intense supervision. The Rebbe explained, "Although we are carefull with chometz, we are not angels and require assistance from above. You, however, relied on your own efforts, not depending on Hashem; hence, you were shown from above that such cannot bear proper results…"

Wishing you all a Kosher and Freilichen Pesach

Monday, March 30, 2009

Loshon Hora


This latest cartoon from Dry Bones summarises what we all must be feeling about the latest anti-Israel smear campaign.

In the blurb that accompanies the cartoon we are pointed to CAMERA which is a website that exposes many of the media lies about Israel. CAMERA in turn points us to an article the New York Times which has a more concilitary and even-handed report about the Gaza campaign. While the article doesn't retract the accusations of Israeli atrocities it gives voice to the Israeli side. It is certainly worth reading.
.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sweet Home Jerusalem



I just came across this video of a well known (to some of us non-chassidish types) pop song. The words have been changed to more meaningful ones and the playing is really quite professional. It sort of reminds me of how Chassidim over the ages have taken goyishe Russian, Polish, Hungarian etc tunes, added Jewish words, and made them into Kosher songs.

The blurb on the website says:

Sweet Home Jerusalem an amazing takeoff of the legendary rock-n-roll song ("Sweet Home Alabama") - Updated Holy Lyrics by Rabbi Lazer Brody and Steven Gasner:
Eagles' wings keep on flying
Carry me home to see The King
Singing songs about my City
Jerusalem you're in my dreams And I'm gonna sing, yes
Well I heard the UN talk about her
But a Jewish boy won't drink this brew
Uncle Sam please remember, that "Jerusalem won't be split in two!"
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem L-rd I'm coming home to you
We're all waiting for Mashiach You can bet he's coming soon
We'll all be dancing in Jerusalem
And we'll all be singing the same tune Now that's the truth
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem L-rd I'm coming home to you
The wise men of the Holy City
They've been known to pick a song or two
They help my soul when I'm hurting
They give me joy when I'm feeling blue Now how about you?
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem L-rd I'm coming home to you
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem Where the skies are so blue
Sweet Home, Sweet Jerusalem L-rd I'm coming home to you

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Islamberg !!!!



Fox News has reported on a new town 150 miles north-west of New York called Islamberg. A very unexciting name for a place where Moslem "baalei teshuva" have made home.

While the report in the above video looks like a reporter trying to make a non-event interesting, when reading the article it appears that this place may be more sinister than the video shows. The head of this village is a radical Moslem who is - surprise, surprise - anti-Zionist. He has also been linked to various terrorist organisations. Let us hope that the Obama administration or at least the local authorities will wake up and do something about these people.

My first thought when I started reading this was of New Square - the town setup by the Squarer Rebbe in upstate New York. Both towns were established so that the pios would not have to interact with the grob, secular world. While New Square has its own problems they are obviously a benign group and living a sheltered life in the environs of their Rebbe. Lehavdil, this Islamic town doesn't sound so holy.
,

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Rebbe's Visit in 1960




This video is composed of still photos taken by Rabbi Yosef Goldstein of the Rebbe's visit to Camp Gan Yisroel almost 49 years ago. Many of them are what you would expect of photos at that time but there are some gems that stand out.

It must have been really exciting for the campers and especially the counsellors to have the Rebbe visit and that is reflected in a number of the shots.

The YouTube caption says:

Lubavitcher Rebbe visits Camp Gan Yisroel, Swan Lake, NY in 1960. Compiled from individual shots taken from a recently scanned 16MM film that was photographed by Rabbi Yosef Goldstein. Our thanks to the family for letting us enjoy these treasures.

The Rebbe visited Gan Yisroel in Ellenvile, NY in 1956 right before the camp opened, then in 1957 he visited Gan Israel at Swan Lake, NY at the beginning of camp, and then he visited in Swan Lake for the third time 1960 (this video).


From Shmais

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Chabad in LA



This video is from the 1960s and shows a very young and relatively calm (compared to today) Rabbi Shlomo Cunin. For the first few minutes I thought that it was a documentary taken at the time but it soon becomes apparent that it is one of the first fundraising attempts for Chabad of California. By today's standards it is quite amateurish and many of the references to the students are pretty condescending. But despite that it must be acknowledged that Shlomo Cunin was the originator of the Chabad House and a dynamic and driven person. The Rebbe gave him a lot of chizuk in the early days and it was certainly well deserved.
>

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Shushan Purim Video



The inimitable Mendy Pellin has joined with COLLive to produce a Purim video which can be seen in it's entirety here. The video above is one of the funnier segments which will resonate with many who have been to a New York kosher restaurant.
.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Purim Videos


Racial Harmony


The Lelover Rebbe distributes a new type of shirayim!!




Thanks to Gruntig

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Purim and Drinking



This year, more than other years, it seems that our schools and community leadership have got it together and are trying to educate our youth and parents about the dangers of excessive drinking. I notice that all the Jewish Schools have been getting professionals to talk about this subject to the kids. Whether or not this helps is up for debate.

What seems to be the better message is the one in the video above from Aleinu in Los Angeles. It encourages parents to be aware of what their children are doing this Purim. This would seems to be common sense but it seems to me that some (many?) parents would rather party themselves than have to worry about their kids on Purim.

Rabbi Yossi Braun in Sydney has sent out a message about drinking on Purim which I believe puts this in perspective for everyone and especially for those who call themselves Lubavitch Chassidim. Although what he says is not new it bears repeating. Some of the pertinent paragraphs:

A significant improvement can be achieved if we adopt the takono (decree) of the Rebbe in relation to consumption of alcohol. The Rebbe has issued an edict that any person less than forty years of age should not drink more than four l’chaims, the total amount not exceeding a revi’is.

If the above takono is observed, it is highly unlikely that alcohol consumption will be a problem.

School age children up to and including secondary school students should not be given any vodka or whisky. Parents should join together and carefully monitor their children over Purim. Please talk to your children about the dangers of drinking. The key to all of the above is responsibility.

While some are of the erroneous opinion that this ruling of the Rebbe has no relevance to Purim, the Rebbe has made it clear on countless occasions that one ought to be equally cautious not to deviate from this instruction on Purim as on any other day. Even if there would be a doubt in this matter (which is not the case!), it is clear that safek lechumra – any doubt in this matter should result in acting stringently and abstaining from excessive drinking.


Let's hope that this message will get through and that Hatzolah will have a very quiet day this Tuesday.

Monday, March 02, 2009

New Shluchim in a New City

Since I don't have a photo of the Avitals
this one of Parliment House will have to do

Canberra's first permanent shluchim set up home last week. Rabbi Dan & Naomi Avital moved to Canberra under Reb Arel Serebryanski who is the official Merkos shaliach in Australia. With the support of Reb Arel and also Eliezer Kornhauser I am sure that the Avitals will be a breath of fresh air to that city. I wish them hatzlocho rabbo in their new mission.

Lubavitch.com has a nice article about this shlichus.


I think it is great that Reb Arel - with the practical support of Eliezer Kornhauser - is opening up new horizons. While the majority of the Jewish population live in the capital cities there is still much work than can be done in Australia outside the "borsht belts" of Melbourne and Sydney. Chabad of RARA started this shlichus and does a wonderful job. I am sure that Reb Arel and Eliezer will find other areas with a sufficient Jewish population to warrant shluchim.
.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Purim Video



Mendy Pellin has produced this video which can be customised for Chabad Houses (and presumably others who want to publicise their Purim functions).

Maybe this will be more acceptable to those who sent nasty comments about the last video - which you will notice that I didn't allow to be published.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hashem's Team!



This entertaining, well made and acted video was produced for the Celluloid Soup Film Festival last year by Jeremy Weinstein & Mark Weinstein. It stars Dov Werdiger who has a great acting career ahead of him if he wants to go in that direction.

Other videos from the festival can be seen here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sderot



This video of conditions in Sderot was produced a few months ago but unfortunately is just as relevant today. As the producer says what Western country would put up with these type of constant bombardments.

Also check out the Sderot Media website.
.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Australian bushfires ease - Israel's continue

The burned-out suburb of Kinglake West looking south towards Melbourne
Picture: David Geraghty (The Australian)


Thank G-d the threat of new bushfires in Victoria seems to be easing after 5 horrendous days. Thanks to rain overnight and cooler temperatures it is reported that no towns are under threat although people are warned to stay vigilant. Now comes the even bigger job of continuing to find those that perished and of the victims and families who live in the ravaged areas rebuilding their property and their lives.

Australians are shocked at the loss of life which is predicted to end up at close to 300 people. We are used to hearing about tragedies in far away places but not on our doorstep. There will need to be a huge change in the way people think about bushfires and the way the relevant authorities react to them. Hopefully politics will not get in the way of good decisions being made.

What is really upsetting about the bushfire situation is that some of the fires were caused by arson. I hope that when the authorities catch these criminals they are treated as murderers by the law.

Another sign of our times is that people are trying to profit from this tragedy. Bogus collectors have already been caught, thieves have been stealing from some of the devastated areas and the Sydney Yeshivah's publicity machine has declared how much they are doing to help the victims.

On a more positive note we can make a difference by donating money to the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. I would suggest doing this through Jewish Aid Australia.

I would also urge you to attend Caulfield Shul tonight for an evening of tefillah and solidarity with the bushfire victims.

(Click on picture for a bigger view)


Due to the bushfires the election in Israel has not been given the prominence it would usually have especially with regards to the outcome of that election. The right-wing parties have won the majority of votes although Kadima beat Likud by one seat. It will be interesting to see who becomes Prime Minister and if anything will change in the way Israel deals with the Palestinians. I am not optimistic.

From the Jerusalem Post